Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Farren, Private William James, 7139
William James Farren, ‘C’ Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Monellan, County Donegal, enlisted at Omagh, County Tyrone, resided at Killygordon, County Donegal, and died on October 21, 1914.
Aged 31, he was the son of John and Lettie Farren, Monellan, and husband of Mary A. Farren, 27, Florence Street, Waterside, Londonderry. His name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
At dawn, on October 21, 1914, the Germans attacked the 2nd Inniskillings at Le Gheer. With the exception of ‘D’ Company, the Battalion was forced to retire and the village fell into the hands of the Germans.
Early in the afternoon a counter attack by the Inniskillings and Somersets restored the position and well over 100 unwounded prisoners were captured by the Inniskillings alone.
At 10pm they returned to billets in the Belgian village of Ploegsteert (known to British troops as Plug Street), which was situated 8 miles south of Ypres and 3 miles north of Armentieres.
More detail can be found in Ian Beckett’s book, Ypres, The First Battle 1914: “In the late afternoon of 21 October the 2nd Inniskilling Fusiliers of 12th Brigade were forced temporarily out of Le Gheer, the situation being restored by the commitment of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry and two companies of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment from Hunter-Weston’s brigade [11th Brigade] and a single company of the 2nd Essex Regiment, though it took until dusk to regain all the lost ground. Lieutenant Colonel R.S. Fox’s 38th Brigade, RFA also did sterling work in winning time for a counter-attack to be organised.
“Hunter-Weston reported that ‘the enemy were mown down and completely bewildered and ran in all directions.’ Captain F.S. Bradshaw of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry similarly recorded, ‘Did not have to go out last night, but early this morning went out and took the village of Le Gheer...Stayed there all day, had a deuce of a fight, killed a lot of Huns and took about 60 prisoners.’ In fact some 130 Germans were captured.”
Friel, Private Charles, 3134
Charles Friel, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died on October 21, 1914. Aged 25, he was the husband of Sarah Donaghey, who resided at 1, Miller’s Close, Bridge Street, Derry (she may have previously resided at 17, Sugarhouse Lane).
His name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial, and his remains are interred in Strand Military Cemetery, Comines Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.
Strand Cemetery is named after a trench which led into Ploegsteert Wood from an area which was known as Charing Cross by the Army. Two burials were made here in October 1914, although the cemetery was not used again until April 1917.
The cemetery fell into German hands in March 1918, but was little used by the Germans. Strand Cemetery was greatly enlarged following the armistice, when graves from many small cemeteries from mainly the Wytschaete and Armentieres areas were brought here.
Holmes, Private Joseph, 7210
Joseph Holmes, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died on October 21, 1914.
He was the brother and brother-in-law of Margaret and Sergeant A. Greer, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and his sisters resided at 2, Lower Road, Londonderry.
Private Holmes went to the Front shortly after the Great War began, and was in all the engagements with his battalion up till the day he was killed.
It is an interesting fact that his younger brother, Private James Holmes, of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who went out with the first draft of the Expeditionary Force, was at the time of his brother’s death a wounded prisoner of war. Private James Holmes, who was well known in Londonderry football circles, having played for Court and afterwards for Institute, landed in France on August 23, 1914, and, in a letter written from a hospital in Cambrai on October 10, 1914, to his wife, he mentioned that on the third day he was in France he was wounded in the arm, and a Londonderry colleague, Private Curry, also of the Inniskillings, was wounded on the neck and shoulder. They were taken to a field hospital, and thus fell into the hands of the Germans, who sent Curry on to Germany as a prisoner, but before Private Holmes was sent away those in the hospital were relieved by British troops. Private Holmes’ letter was written after this, and he stated that he did not expect that he would be taken to Germany after all, but would probably be taken to England, where he expected he would soon get better. The hospital, however, again fell into the hands of Germans, and Private Holmes was sent on to the prison camp at Cassel, Germany. Writing from there, on November 6, 1914, to his sister, Mrs McClements, London Street, he stated: ‘I am in the best of health, and my arm is nearly all right.’
On the outbreak of the Great War both James and Joseph Holmes were reservists, and were connected with the City of Derry U.V.F.
McNulty, Private Thomas, 3843
Thomas McNulty, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died in Flanders on October 21, 1914.
He was the brother of Margaret McCafferty, 111, Foyle Road, Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium. His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Piggott, Private James, 7332
James Piggott, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskiling Fusiliers, died on October 21, 1914.
He was the brother of John Piggott, 18, Nailor’s Row, Londonderry. His name is inscribed on the St Columb’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland) Memorial to the men connected to that cathedral who died during the 1914-18 War; on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium; and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Armstrong, Private Robert, 6799
Robert Armstrong, 2nd Battalion Prince Of Wales’ Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment), was born at Glendermott, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and resided at Glasgow.
He died on October 24, 1914, and his name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment were based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, when the Great War began in August 1914. As part of 7th Brigade in 3rd Division they landed in Le Havre on August 14, 1914. They saw action in the 1914 engagements at Mons, Solesme, Le Cateau, Marne, Aisne, La Bassee, Messines and the First Battle of Ypres.
Jamieson, Lance Corporal Robert, 7554
Robert Jamieson, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, was born at Derry, enlisted at Belfast, and died on October 25, 1914.
Aged 26, he was the son of George Jamieson, and husband of Margaret Jamieson, 25, Heather Street, Crumlin Road, Belfast. His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Lance Corporal Jamieson was killed at the battle of La Bassee. On the day of his death the 2nd Irish Rifles were involved in hand-to-hand fighting at Neuve Chapelle, a village of France four miles north of La Bassee and eight-and-a-half miles south west of Armentieres, lying slightly south of the Armentieres-Bethune road. If we turn to the pages of James W. Taylor’s book The 2nd Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War we discover the actions of the 2nd Rifles on the day of Lance Corporal Jamieson’s death:
“The Germans succeeded in establishing themselves in the houses near the left flanks of the trenches and, on the morning of the 25th, rushed the end trench. They succeeded in capturing the remaining field gun there but only got to fire one round before it overturned, the recoil action having been purposely sabotaged by the British gunners. With the remains of B Coy in reserve, many having replaced casualties in the firing line, and a platoon of the Lincolns, the enemy was eventually driven out but the trench could not be reoccupied as the British artillery was shelling it and the rear ground.
“The War Diary noted: ‘In fact this day our artillery shelled the trenches held by this battalion causing several casualties and it was some time before they could be stopped as the telephone line was cut by shell fire and orderlies took a long time getting back. The enemy’s bombardment this day was more severe and our casualties heavy. The two machine guns were put out of action, the water jackets being damaged by rifle fire.’”
Dunne, Private John, 10381
John Dunne, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died in Flanders on October 27, 1914.
Aged 18, he was the brother of Mary Dunne, and adopted son of Charles and Mary Bryson, 46, St Columb’s Wells, Derry. His name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Muirhead, Guardsman Alexander, 4773
On October 29, 1914, Guardsman Alexander Muirhead, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, lost his life.
He was born in Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium.
1st Battalion The Scots Guards were based in Aldershot, Hampshire, with the 1st (Guards) Brigade when war broke out in August 1914. They proceeded to France landing at Le Havre on August 14, being amongst the first troops of the British Expeditionary Force. They fought in the 1914 battles of Mons, Marne, Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres.
Guardsman Muirhead died at the Belgian village of Gheluvelt, in the province of West Flanders, 4 miles south east of Ypres on the Ypres-Menin road. It was the scene of desperate fighting in the Great War, especially in the First Battle of Ypres, October 24-31, 1914. Gheluvelt was attacked on October 29. Under cover of a fog the Germans broke through down the Menin road, and then, attacking the 1st Grenadiers from the rear, reduced the battalion to 150 fit men. Not far away the 1st Coldstreamers were nearly destroyed, and some of the 1st Scots suffered a like fate.
An excerpt of one of the original 1st Scots Guards diary entries for the day reads: “29th Oct 1914. In trenches at GHELUVELT. Attack commenced punctually at 5:30 am on North front. Heavy exclusion done by C and LF. At about 12 noon, the line on the east side at the cross roads on the YPRES road, held by the 1st Bn GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGT, is broken and the 1st Bn COLDSTREAM GUARDS, and 1st Bn BLACK WATCH are successively rolled up and retire. RF ½ Battalion and 2 sections of C Coy are thus isolated and surrounded, and nothing more heard of them. 2 Platoons of C Coy and ½ LF are brought to E side and with the help of stragglers collected by Capt STEPHEN hold enemy off all day and accounts for many GERMANS. 3rd INF BDE is brought up in the evening and line readjusted.”